Our surf instructor, “Tree”, just took an amazing trip to the Lost Coast of Northern California recently. Here’s her stories and photos that she shared with MSG. Tree – do I take this as a recon mission for a future MSG trip? Ladies – write us here at the blog if there’s interest. I’m in!!
Here’s her story:
We hiked along the edge of the King Range on the Lost Coast of Northern
California, continental USA’s longest undisturbed coastline according to
one source, right where Mendocino County meets Humboldt County – Shelter Cove to Big Flats a place on few maps and on almost no surf reports.
Green ridges come sharply down to the sea, looking like Hawai’i. I even surfed under a
rainbow! From the parked van, with my friend Gabe whom I met on Maui
this summer before camp, we got our gear on our backs, surfboards in
hand, and took off north along Black Sands Beach, famous for sneaker
sets that pop up out of nowhere and “send you swimming with your picnic
wrapped around your neck,” as one local gypsy in nearby Garberville put it.
The hike was eight miles over a low tide of sand, pebbles, slippery
rocks, fallen driftwood tree trunks, freshwater creeks. We hiked at
night with about a three-eights moon shining brightly on the water,
lucky for the normally foggy conditions. We kept our headlamps off for
most of it so we didn’t get disoriented and look only at one spot. At
one point there were bears knocking rocks off the cliffs near us, woah!
Wilderness, here we come.
Not far into the hike I strapped my MSG board horizontally to my pack,
and was carrying food in a bag in my hand. Gabe’s pack was larger and
heavier than mine, but both of his hands were free. The home stretch
mile was a quick 10-15 foot climb up the slate rock shelf to “Big
Flats”, a huge uplift of flat land with developed forest and numerous
mile-long piles of hand-size to head-size pebbles. When Gabe, who had
done the trip two years prior, stopped and put down his pack, I could
see the almost illusory reflection of water up on this higher elevation
flat. It was a freshwater creek coming down from the valley, where we
spent our week and got our drinking water.
I put up my new tent (first ever except a hand-me-down once!), crawled
in, laid down, and got warm for a minute. Gabe cooked dinner on his
home-made alcohol stove made of two aluminum can bottoms and some wire,
weighing about as much as a stick of gum.
After din-din we each climbed a tree, back in the woods, with an end of
a piece of rope left by previous hikers. We hung our food from some
twine we threw up over the rope we tied off. I slept super well that
night, tired from the hike, me in my new warm tent and Gabe under the
driftwood lean-to left on the beach (hardcore, this guy!).
The next days I saw bear prints, raccoon prints, bird skulls, feathers,
driftwood huge old-growth redwood tree trunks on the beach. Many
awesome California native shrubs and trees I love so much growing in the
lush valley. Gabe went surfing the first morning and I held back to
give my torn tricep, from two surf kayak and waveski competitions the
previous two weekends, more time to heal. I didn’t care, just being so
far out in the coastal backcountry was good for me. Plus I was cold and
spent time in my new tent with gratitude. From data online, and my best
firsthand experience estimates, the water temp there could not have been
much above 50 degrees, which is already five degrees colder than Santa
Cruz where I live.
With my 4.3 wetsuit and new hood and booties, I froze to where my
fingers would not hold together to get a good paddle stroke, and when I
got out my feet would not really work to walk (or run away from shore
pound) out of the ocean. All this after being frustrated with my
“short” 8’0″ skinny board that I don’t “get” yet. Nothing like big big
swell, a board that is too advanced for ya, and too cold to close your
fingers, oh and an injured tricep muscle. When I came back to Santa
Cruz and got in at Steamer Lane in the sunshine, everything was so e-Z!
Gabe surfed mackin’ waves on his longboard. I surfed a few sunny day
head high waves, and am so stoked for those rides under the rainbow, and
one in the complete fog. Swell reached 12′ faces the day after that,
and I went out with Gabe because I am so hard core, yah, and just
enjoyed taking the beatdowns getting out, and not catching anything out
of fear of something I don’t know, with shifting peaks. After a while I
told Gabe I am “outta here,” over watching him take the steep drops from
where I was on the backs of the waves except for the outside sets, and I
swam back towards the shore. Other surfers had hiked in with short
boards, in the rain and howling wind, but no one caught a wave that day
but for Gabe.
A wicked side-shore current kept taking me south, not letting me ever
get back to the river mouth, though I tried for half an hour.
Eventually I was so tired and cold I had to just take the pound to the
shore to where I had drifted, and get literally thrown onto the shore,
sucked down and toppled over falls and shot up the beach through the
head-size pebbles, like being shot out of a hose, just a couple hundred
feet from my tent. My adrenaline was pumpin’ from the session. I tore
off my westuit and got in the tent to warm up. I got dressed fast and
made a hot fire super quickly, my eyes glazed over, looking beyond the
flames, with respect for ocean and happy.
I know that the Great Whities were out there, nearby to us in this “Lost
Coast” wilderness. We had it lucky: We arrived without the presence of
other surfers, though some came and went while we were there. A couple
of them we only saw in the water once, and more were just coming in at
the end of a diminishing swell with none other forecasted. That was
strange, especially given the work it took to get out there, and staying
warm and dry. Once, a gust of wind threw the tent stakes in the sand
into my face, then the immediate next gust somersaulted me inside the
tent onto my back and the tent upside down on me with crashed tent poles!
We stretched our food out and ate skinny, to stay longer for the swell,
with hopes for bluebird days. We got it, we got the best serving of all
who came to Big Flats. The hike back a week from our beginning was cake
not having to carry any food but for one food bar, but my shoe got wet
from my foot slipping off a rock that wobbled while crossing a creek
with my heavy pack and board strapped on, this time vertically, and much
easier on the center of balance.
For a couple of days since returning I have been a bit melancholy,
missing the raw, beautiful nature, the solitude surfing, and the absence
of B.S. out in a rugged environment. And missing my good buddies Gabe
and the bears.
The pictures of the paddle surfing are from Kayak Surf Nationals, at
home at Davenport Beach near Santa Cruz; and the US Waveski Nationals in
Ventura, the two weekends prior to the awesome surf trip. I got a
second in both contests, but they were contests a
gainst myself because
there were not enough women competing (second out of 6 and 3). I still
hold second place in the World for women’s kayak surfing, out of 26
women, won in Basque Country, Spain last October.